Members of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) at the University of Sydney have voted overwhelmingly to authorise protected industrial action, with 96% of members supporting the proposal.
The motion, and the choice to take industrial action, relate to the Union’s log of claims for the 2021-22 Enterprise Bargaining period. The log of claims notably calls for a pay increase and an end to the long-term trend of casualisation. Casualisation of staff has been prominent in discussions around teaching conditions in recent years following a USyd Casuals Network report, which found that 90% of its participants engaged in unpaid work during Semester 2 of 2020.
A staff strike would be the first since 2017.
Nick Riemer, Branch President of the NTEU at USyd, believes the overwhelming support for action is indicative of staff’s frustration. “This vote shows union members’ determination not just to defend our rights and interests, but also to fix the serious problems there are at this institution”, he told Honi. “We’re tired of continually having to struggle against management just to get our jobs done… Our campaign for properly paid, quality, secure jobs for everyone isn’t just good for us, it’s necessary if students are to get the kind of education that they deserve and society needs.”
The Secretary of the NTEU in NSW, Damien Cahill, agreed that action is essential for students to gain a quality education. Cahill explained that “staff working conditions are student learning conditions, and if Uni management truly wants Sydney to be a world class university they need to ensure both academic and professional staff have secure jobs and sufficient time to be able to do their required work – and that means changing the enterprise agreement.”
Student support for staff industrial action has been an important feature of enterprise bargaining periods in recent decades. Lia Perkins, one of the SRC’s Education Officers, emphasises the need for this to continue. “Students should fully support the enormous amount of staff who voted to take industrial action against management at USyd”, Perkins said.
“The quality of our education will improve by ending insecure work and exploitative casual contracts at USyd. The most powerful way to fight the corporate university is through a staff strike, which can only be successful with student support… Talking to classmates about the strikes, getting involved in education organising and standing on the picket lines is the most crucial way students can show their solidarity and help staff win our shared demands,” she added.
There is a staff and student protest supporting free education at 1pm tomorrow, beginning at Fisher Library and marching to UTS. The protesters’ demands include support for the staff industrial action.